St. Helens Oregon High School Tiny House Project

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It started out a neat enough idea. Apply for a Lowes grant for $4000, build a couple (very) tiny homes for the student’s education and experience, and then sell them on Craigslist. I’m smiling (ruefully) thinking about the “if I’d only known then” concept. You see, when you manage a class of 20-30 2nd year high school woodworking students, neatness never really enters the equation? I teach a woodworking/building construction program at St Helens High School in Oregon. The student’s introduction to the tiny house building class is a one semester (half year) class consisting of learning the basics of machine and tool use, measuring, and basic wood vocabulary as they work through 5-6 projects. It is a regimented class and if you fall behind, usually you stay that way unless you have the with-it-ness to come in during lunch or after school. ?So it is only with a half year of introductory woodworking that I launched into building a couple tiny houses. And unlike some really good high school programs building complete houses every year or two, we were going to do everything ourselves instead of subbing out the majority of it.

My dad has this saying “Two people can live just as cheaply as one, for half as long” and it sure played out on this project. Instead of half the class working on each house, my 4 or 5 best students did all the work on both houses, which meant twice as long to complete anything. You see, I was excited about the project, but convincing a 15 year old to take his or her time and do something right translates to them not doing it at all. It was a rough go.

So, after three years of watching the majority of the work be completed by 2-3 students each year, we have two tiny houses up for sale!

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To start with, all of my students were required to bring in at least three pictures of tiny homes that they actually liked the looks of and after throwing those all out the door because of budget we ended up just drawing our own in Google Sketchup. The houses are both 6’x 8’ and roughly 12’ to the peak. Since the houses vary quite a bit I’ll just give you the rundown in a list format.
The blue house: $5000?35 year roofing?Hardiplank Siding – Stucco board and bat finish?Hardwood flooring?Sheep wool insulation!?Custom high density mattress with cover?Custom lockable door with Brink’s Home Security™ Push Pull Rotate™ Door Knob?Sink with venting and 1 ½” drain line to the exterior (hose bib hook up)?Electrical consisting of one GFCI outlet, 4 standard, two 3-way light switches, and 3 lights?Hinged loft that swings down for more room?Custom modifiable table/workbench/2nd bed/bench seat lets you decide what is important to you!?5 Windows and custom trimwork

The Brown house: $3500 ?35 year roofing?Hardiplank Siding – Stucco board and bat finish?Hardwood flooring?Fiberglass insulation?Custom lockable door with Brink’s Home Security™ Push Pull Rotate™ Door Knob?Custom trimwork?Electrical consisting of 3 outlets, 2 interior lights and dual exterior lighting?Open floor plan
No Street of Dreams here, these are high school 2nd year students building homes for experience, so understand that character and education is featured throughout! Gaps, scratches, and bowed sheetrock come free with no extra charge! We guarantee our work until it leaves the school property. =)

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Oregon Shepard donated the sheep wool insulation for the blue house which proved to be a good experience for the students. The sheetrock mudding and taping turned out to be my biggest disaster as is evident by the finished product. Since the majority of my students wanted to work on their own products (end tables, step stools, cutting boards, gun racks, etc.) I had considerable less time overseeing the actual work on the houses and it was fairly depressing for a couple specific students to have me come in at the end of the period and cringe. It wasn’t their fault, at that time they just didn’t know enough to know enough.
We ended up spending quite a bit more money than we intended with student “experiences,” but that is what we do here.

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My hope for the future is that somebody is planning on building a tiny house, but wants to do the finish work themselves. That way our class can do all the basics of framing, siding, electrical, plumbing, insulation, and whatever wall covering material they want, but let the customer detail it out themselves. It is probably a long shot, but we have plenty of good building construction projects lined up until we make that decision.

If anyone is interested in watching the initial building process, we made a short video about it, complete with thoughts from Dee Williams! Enjoy!

http://vimeo.com/67363004
Joe Mauck
St. Helen’s High School
Building Construction Department
2375 Gable Road, St. Helens OR 97051
Office: 503-366-7416
Cell: 503-490-6350
http://www.sthelens.k12.or.us//Domain/140

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Bellatazza Coffee Truck

French Coffee Truck

Hi Everyone, I just wanted to touch bases with the Tiny House Blog readers. I have been publishing rather infrequently because of some changes in our lives. Our family has recently moved to Central Oregon from Northern California and this has been a big change and challenge for us. We are just starting to get settled and I hope to regain the daily post schedule in the next couple of weeks.

Currently I am waiting for full time internet access and that will not happen till the first of August. So in the meantime I am dependent on Coffee Shops and my Verizon hub on my iPhone. I am sitting right now at the Sister’s Oregon Coffee shop and working on this post and also trying to complete Issue 19 of the Tiny House Magazine. Away from the distractions of unpacking and getting settled.

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Last weekend early on Saturday morning I got up to see the Balloons Over Bend morning take off. While there I saw this unique coffee truck which was selling Bellatazza Coffee to the early risers. I talked to the owner and he said the truck was made in France. It is a CITROEN and he says he can still get new parts for it though it is no longer in production.

I thought it would make a great tiny house if converted into one. It worked perfect as a mobile coffee truck but I can imagine living in it and exploring the country. What do you think?

Balloons Over Bend

Does That House Come With Free Shipping

71Z0JZGAX1LThe landscape of America is to this day dotted with pre-fabricated houses, kit cabins, modular units, and other “instant” houses. It has long been the American ideal to build ones own house but the reality has become in the last century that not all are able to do so be it for reasons of honest ineptitude, lack of desire, lack of time, and basic lack of skill. During the 1920s though (immediately following The Immigration Act of 1924) and just prior to the Great Depression men who were on the bottom of the corporate ladder but had a small amount of money and a huge desire to build a home here in America enabled “instant” homes to skyrocket in both popularity and sales. One of the companies that profited from this early DIY-esque building boom was the Ray H. Bennett Lumber Company of North Tonawanda, New York.

I first heard of the Bennett Pre-Cut House in an episode of Boardwalk Empire on the HBO channel. As Agent Nelson Van Alden (played by Michael Shannon) is remaining off-grid from his former federal security employer he settles with his émigré wife in an early subdivision filled with small bungalows crafted by Ray H. Bennetts company and referred to as “Bennett Pre Cuts”. Almost immediately I became fascinated with the idea of homes in the style of Sears & Roebuck being built in a factory, packed on pallets, and shipped via rail car to a Northeastern destination to be assembled by sub-contractors and working class stiffs. A small amount of research taught me that like Sears and Aladdin, Bennett sold kit homes from currently popular plans. His carried names such as the Flanders, the Cloverdale, and the Cleo. Once ordered, each house was crated and shipped from Tonawanda to its new owner. Bennett Homes (many still in existence today) are concentrated in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, as well as into the upper Midwest.

The introductory page of 1920 catalogue states:

 

“Today, more than ever before, people are seriously considering how they shall live. They realize that the inspiration of home, next to religion, is the greatest in life … The dainty cottage, the inviting bungalow, the comfortable Colonial, the cosy story and a half, these are the leading homes to-day … Bennett Homes, Better-Built and Ready-Cut, satisfy every desire and every need of home-lovers, for the dwelling-place which shall possess charm, convenience, and endurance to the greatest extent consistent with the desired investment.”

The most expensive home in the catalogue is “The Colonial”, at $4243.05, though if you paid in cash there was a 5% discount.  According to the US Inflation Calculator, in today’s dollars that would be $51,887.49.  The least expensive home (considerably smaller) is the “Kenmore A”, at $804.91.  It should be noted, however, that these prices do not include delivery.  The prices also do not include bath fixtures or extra kitchen cabinets, though they were available to purchase. Not only were the homes were pre-cut, they were even “notched for easy assembly”.

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Below is a picture and plan of “The Colonial” courtesy of Keith at Instant House.

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Bennett Pre-Cuts as well as other mail-order house were marketed by mail order catalog from 1906-1982. The selling company provided building plans and materials to construct the home. The materials were provided either as bulk lumber, or more commonly as precut framing boards. The latter were known simply as “kit” homes. What is so fascinating to Americans today (who seem to be consumed by one-stop shop hardware box stores) is that buyer received all the materials from one source: lumber, roofing, doors and windows, flooring, trim boards, hardware, nails, and enough paint and varnish to put 2 coats on everything. Electric, plumbing and heating fixtures were NOT provided as part of the house, but were available at extra cost. Most buyers ordered from the closest supplier, as the buyer paid the freight charges.

These well-designed, practical, homes were made of top quality materials. Lumber and hardware were purchased in bulk then the structural elements were cut to exact size at the mill and shipped to the customer. Manufacturers like Bennett claimed the pre-cut system would save the builder up to 30% compared to the cost of standard building methods. 

The sacrifice however seemed to come in artistic terms. These houses were usually not distinctive designs at all, but rather copies of the most popular styles of the day.  House designs and sizes were standardized and closely regulated to reduce waste in materials, but customers were encouraged to personalize their order by moving windows or doors, adding porches, fireplaces, sunrooms, window boxes, trellises, or built in cabinetry, and by selecting exterior finish and colors. Pre-cuts were sort of “choose your own adventure” but with a tool pouch. 

To view a Flickr album of many of Bennett’s designs and sketches visit this page.

 

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]